Smart Communities: Rising Cities, Smart Future 2024 All-Women Panel

Miruna Macsim 31/05/2024 | 13:39

The Rising Cities, Smart Future 2024 conference continues to break new ground with its second panel discussion, featuring an all-women panel. This milestone session focuses on leveraging technology and innovative strategies to enhance urban life and address complex challenges faced by cities today. 

 

Andreea Cotiga, Head of Leasing Office at CPI Romania

We are coming off a 2023 that marked a record year in terms of transaction volumes and leasing activity; at first glance, everything seemed to have gone exceptionally well. I believe last year, over 450,000 square meters were transacted, a figure that I have not encountered in my entire career, far surpassing 2019 which had been a record year for us following the financial crisis. Last year’s leasing activity and a trend that continues to challenge us this year had a particularity: the new demand, the total transactions minus the extensions and renegotiations of contracts, accounted for less than half of the total, which indeed is below the trends of recent years, but still, as an absolute value, it seems to me to remain a significant figure.

It’s a trend we encountered last year, continue to face this year, and I believe it’s the result of companies being much more cautious about cost factors, approving budgets not as freely, and generally, the decision-making process seems to take a bit longer. These seem to be perfectly natural developments, especially in the post-pandemic context, in the context of all the events that this pandemic has generated for everyone, particularly in the office segment, in the context of the adoption, definition, and implementation by various organizations of the hybrid work model, and in a broader macroeconomic and geopolitical context, when the business environment faces a lower level of predictability. These are trends that we carry with us into 2024, and the start of the year for us has been very dynamic. Part of the growth level also came from the fact that we have become part of the CPI Property Group, one of the most important players in the real estate industry in Europe.

The first quarter of this year, in terms of leasing activity, ended with very good results because we managed to secure over 22,000 square meters of office spaces to date, and as for the trends in the office market, it seems to me that we are going through a period of equilibrium where things are somewhat coming into order, as a result of the events generated by the pandemic and the geopolitical context, the conflicts in the region, and the fact that we are going through an election year. Moreover, particularly in the current urban context of Bucharest, where at least on the office segment we are facing a negative record regarding the delivery of new projects in the next 2-3 years, it is evident that demand in this context will be covered from the existing stock and from spaces available for sublease, and this is expected to put pressure on one hand, on the vacancy rate, on the other hand, on the level of rents, a situation we have also felt since last year, and generally on commercial terms and conditions.

 

Marcela Stancu, Community Director at Genesis Property

Genesis Property embarked on its journey towards ESG several years ago, driven by the innovative and inspirational vision of our leader, Liviu Tudor. The project we are currently developing in Pipera was conceptualized well before the pandemic, but the pandemic has hastened the start of the project because it confirmed that the path we had chosen was the right one. We began this reconfiguration of the space we already had, opting not to simply exist as an office space but to expand the public space accessible to all tenants in the area, with our office park and even the Pipera community.

For us, the end user is the most important because we listened to their needs and desires, and implemented everything we learned from them. We now have an extraordinary space, having completed phase two, featuring an urban forest, pedestrian pathways, and an amphitheater where events can take place—a multitude of facilities that were needed because we know it’s harder now to bring people into the office. Some people have developed a preference for working from home, finding it more efficient, comfortable, and productive, while the younger generation is eager to interact.

Companies have transferred this responsibility to managers at the third and fourth levels—a tremendous responsibility—and these managers need support and assistance in their efforts to rebuild human interactions among employees and restore the organizational culture that suffered during the pandemic. We have come to the aid of these managers and thus the companies by providing all the facilities they need and establishing a community of employees that is extremely active in all respects, because we realized that a single community cannot meet all the needs of the employees in our office parks. Therefore, we created an ecosystem of micro-communities.

 

Beatrice Dumitrascu, CEO Residential Division at One United Properties:

Since the inception of our company, we have been guided by the principles of sustainability. It is vivid in my memory, around 11 years ago, when we initially engaged with the Romania Green Building Council. The concepts discussed were foreign to us at the time, reflecting our nascent entry into a residential market we approached with immense confidence. Our strategy was centered around developing mixed-use complexes that amalgamated offices, commercial spaces, and residential buildings in prime locations, pivotal to our vision. The presence of a park or lake, along with essential proximity services, was a prerequisite for these developments, transforming these areas into sustainable communities. We embraced the concept of a 15-minute city, realizing that with the right amenities and green certifications, a five-minute city was within reach. The benefits of living and working in the same vicinity are immense, saving countless hours spent commuting across city quadrants each day.

However, sustainability transcends mere certifications. It encompasses our ethos as developers and the robust public-private partnerships we forge, ensuring our active participation in the creation of green spaces and infrastructural improvements—from tree planting to traffic decongestion measures and extensive underground parking solutions. For years, geo-exchange has been a cornerstone of our strategy to reduce living costs for our residents, a critical aspect given our responsibilities as a publicly-listed company. With construction recognized as a significant polluting industry, our adherence to stringent green building standards, material sourcing, and recycling practices underscores our commitment to sustainable development.

Moreover, our ongoing projects like the One Lake District are testament to our commitment. Having recently launched phase two, following the successful sale of 80% of the apartments in phase one, we continue to expand our community offerings. Located on the shores of Lake Plumbuita, this development promises to deliver over 2,200 apartments and extensive amenities, fostering a thriving community in a previously overlooked area now coming into its own. Sustainability is not just about reducing pollution or enhancing transportation solutions, it’s about building resilient, vibrant communities that enrich the quality of life for all residents. This is the essence of our work, and it drives every decision we make, from planning to execution, ensuring we contribute positively to the broader narrative of urban development and ecological responsibility.

 

Ashton Topolinski, Partner, Head of Marketing & Branding at InteRo Property Development:

Transitioning from Toronto, Canada, I’ve encountered a distinctly challenging market here. In many developed nations, the cost of living has become prohibitive for young adults under 25. High rent, food costs, and scarce opportunities characterize these markets. As a developer, our mission aligns with building communities that not only meet the immediate needs of residents but also enrich their lives, a necessity in today’s strained economic climate. Since my return to Romania in 2006, the evolving economic landscape and societal openness to new experiences have presented unique opportunities for growth and development.

One of our premier projects, Pajurei Residence, epitomizes luxury with its comprehensive amenities and a commitment to sustainability. Our focus extends beyond providing high-end facilities; it’s about fostering a deep understanding of sustainable living among our residents. This educational approach is crucial as we guide them in utilizing smart home features and understanding the long-term cost benefits of energy-efficient living.

Looking ahead, our ambitious Rocar platform redevelopment will transform over 20 hectares into a self-sufficient ‘city within a city,’ blending quality, affordability, and premium amenities. This approach not only meets the demands for better living conditions but also sets a new standard in community development, addressing the needs of residents comprehensively.

In conclusion, our strategy involves a holistic view of real estate development, focusing on innovative marketing, community engagement, and technological integration to ensure that our developments are not just structures but homes that offer value, sustainability, and comfort to all inhabitants.

BR Magazine | Latest Issue

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Miruna Macsim | 06/06/2024 | 16:28
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